Monday, 20 April 2015

Child 44 (3½ Stars)

There is no murder in paradise.

Sometimes my reviews just flow naturally, and I can ramble on about a film for hours. Other times I don't know what to write. In most cases it's not the good films or the bad films that I have problems writing about; it's the average films. That's the case with "Child 44". I've been sitting staring at my computer screen for the last two hours wondering where to start.

Let's get the plot out of the way first. That part of the review is easy. After introductory scenes immediately before and after the second world war, the film takes place in Russia in 1953. Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy) is a high ranking security officer in Moscow. He loses his position when his wife Raisa (Noomi Rapace) is accused of being a traitor and he refuses to denounce her. It's not clear from the film whether she really is a traitor; it's possible that she was falsely accused by Leo's enemies. Together they are exiled to a remote Russian town. When there Leo begins to investigate a series of murders that have been covered up by the government. 44 young boys have been stripped naked and killed. In every case the reports say the deaths were accidental, because the official Communist doctrine is that murders only take place in Capitalist states. By daring to claim that there is a serial killer Leo is treated as a criminal.

Tom Hardy is a brilliant actor, as always, and Noomi Rapace also delivers an excellent performance. It's a fascinating window into the dismal life in Russia in the latter years of Stalin's rule. The problem, as I see it, is that the film is cluttered with too many sub-plots. There are the relationship problems between Leo and Raisa, Leo's problems with his colleague Vasili, Vasili's desires for Raisa, the arguments among party officials, betrayal and counter-betrayal, just to name the main sub-plots. I can imagine that this works well in the novel by Tom Smith that the film is based on. The screenwriters should have trimmed the story down to make it less difficult to follow.

Judging by initial reports "Child 44" is going to be a big failure at the box office. That's probably because the film doesn't look appealing to the popcorn-munching public. Spy films aren't popular, unless they have over-the-top action, and spy films set in Russia are a total no go. That's a shame. Despite my criticism of the film I think it's worth seeing.

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